Producer Bruce Timm and voice director Andrea Romano have been working together in animation since the early 1990s, when Batman: The Animated Series went into development. The dynamic duo has since paired on umpteen DC Universe animated projects, the latest being Green Lantern: Emerald Knights. One of the latest actors to work with them is Wade Williams, whose credits include Prison Break, Batman: Under the Red Hood, Batman: Brave and the Bold, The Bernie Mac Show and The Chicago 8, among many others. I spoke to Timm, Romano and Williams at San Francisco's Moscone Center during the 2011 Wondercon.
Groucho: So are you able to say yet anything about the voice cast of Green Lantern: The Animated Series?
Bruce Timm: The Green Lantern animated series? No. Nope, sorry. The gag order’s in place. But they’re awesome. They’re really good.
Groucho: What is it that dictated the decision to go CGI with that show?
Bruce Timm: A variety of factors. We’ve been—my boss, Sam Register, has been really gung-ho about getting into CGI animation for a long time, and this seemed to be like the perfect opportunity for it. Both because of the fact that, you know, we’ll be coming off of the live-action movie which, everybody knows, will be a big, huge hit and will have a lot of publicity. And so that will give us a leg up, you know, with the new show. Also the idea of it not being set on Earth enabled us to embrace the kind of different qualities that CG brings to the medium. One of the things that I find really frustrating when I look at CG movies is—I’m not a huge fan of the CG properties that try to trick you into thinking you’re looking at a live-action film. I think the most successful CG films so far are the ones that actually have a stylized look. So like I said, setting the show in outer space, it really gave us a chance to stylize the crap out of everything, you know? Rocks and trees and vehicles and buildings and people. So it seemed like a real natural fit for CG...
Groucho: Andrea, can you talk about the cast for Emerald Knights—why these particular actors were the right fit for these roles?
Andrea Romano: Sure. When we get ready to cast something, we do a big group sort of—everybody throws out their ideas of what they think might be fun, and the list comes from everything—my personal lists of wants could be paging through the TV Guide and going, “Okay, who’s hot right now?” Or actors that we’ve approached before for other projects that weren’t available that I just keep on a list of let’s see, let’s find something for them in the future. Or people we’ve worked with before that we really liked: let’s bring them back in, like Nathan Fillion. And then there’s also input, of course, from DC Comics and from Warner Home Video. And we create a list of order that we want to approach the actors in. And what we have to be careful of is we may have five actors for Hal Jordan and five actors for Arisia and we go down to whatever number Green Lantern is available for now, and then we have to see, on the list, how this one matches with that actor. It may not necessarily be the best match, we may have to switch the order in order to make sure they would fit in the same world and stuff. So I never cast in a vacuum. It’s always a group decision as to where we should go. But because I’ve been doing it for so long, I have a lot of actors available that I’ve worked with. For example, Wade Williams, I worked with on a series called Avatar: The Last Airbender. And that’s where I knew him from. And I talked to Bruce about him right after I worked with him on that thing: “Bruce, there’s this terrific actor who totally gets animation, but keep him in mind for something.” We’ve used him, what, three times now? So he’s just terrific. So it’s always that kind of group decisions as to who we want...
G: Now Geoff [Johns] was talking earlier about—I’m sorry, I lost my train of thought.
Andrea Romano: That’s okay. I do that all the time.
BT: It never happens to me.
AR: (Sarcastically:) Yeah...
G: Geoff’s talking about this obviously tying into the feature film.
G: Was there any kind of negotiation about what the film side wanted the film to represent? It seems like you really held the ground in terms of representing the comics' fandom.
BT: Well, the common denominator is Geoff himself. Because Geoff is consulting on both our project and on the movie project, so he kind of oversees everything and he knows what they’re doing; he knows what we’re doing. He knows when...it’s okay for us to coincide, and when it’s not a good idea for us to coincide because “Oh, they’re going to be doing that in the movies, so we don’t need to go there yet.” So he’s been really an invaluable, y'know, asset to us on that...
Groucho: Can you talk about your take on the character of Deegan—how you understood him and maybe what Andrea gave you to help you find that voice?
Wade Williams: Well, he’s a drill sergeant. You know, he trains young, new Green Lanterns who are not only Green Lanterns, but green. And he has to train them, not only to have confidence and skills, but to realize the power that the ring gives them and the power that they give the ring, which I think that’s the hardest lesson to learn. Where—I don’t know; we all have gifts in our lives. I think it’s kind of metaphorical...everybody has a gift, and what do you do with it once you find out that you’ve got it? And it’s not usually something that you choose. It’s something that chooses you. So I think it’s great. I think Deegan’s a great character like that. Sometimes it takes a little tough love to get you there, you know...?
G: Had you had any real experience with comic books before doing all these DC projects?
Wade Williams: Yeah. When I was a kid, a friend of ours gave us his comic book collection, which was a big box like this full of old comic books from back in the fifties and early sixties. And I don’t have them anymore. What an idiot. But I read them like crazy. I read the Green Lantern, The Atom, Superman, Aquaman. I’m trying to think of the other good ones I liked. Batman. I mean, just all of them. I just ate them up, 'cause I’m a very slow reader, so comic books are great for me because...especially back in those days, there wasn’t a lot—there was mainly pictures and, y'know, “BANG,” “POW,” and, you know. So I enjoyed that.